The Bambino, Bats and Snacks

There is nothing I look forward to more than baseball season.

Well… that’s not true at all. I look forward to a lot of things more than that — payday, kids coming home for a visit, Jeopardy at 7 p.m. — but I do really enjoy baseball. If you read this column regularly, you already know this, as I have written about it at least a hundred times.

Baseball is the one sport I really enjoy watching, live or on TV. For one thing, you can multitask and not miss a thing. Many wrong people consider baseball boring, and I get it. There’s no blood, no concussions, no brawling (usually) and no spectacular half-time show. There is, however, skill and strategy, and statistics, and rivalry, and seemingly endless anticipation.

For me, it’s the anticipation that I love. Anticipation for the season, for each time at bat, for the playoffs — the entire game is one long sequence of high hopes. And to be honest, for me the anticipation of everything is always better than the actual thing. The excitement of upcoming holidays, dessert, even weekends, is always better. Once they start, they’re almost over, and that’s just a bummer. Baseball season, thankfully, will last over half a year, which means the depression won’t set in until November — which is good news for the rest of my team. 

So you can imagine my excitement, when, while perusing this month’s National Day Calendar (yes, I am still doing that), there were a couple of baseball-centric days. First and foremost is National Babe Ruth Day on April 27. To celebrate I plan to watch The Babe Ruth Story from 1948. (Not 1992’s The Babe, which received two thumbs down from Siskel and Ebert.) William Bendix plays the Sultan of Swat in all his child-curing, dog-rescuing glory. I will probably also watch the overly schmaltzy biopic Pride of the Yankees because, although it’s not National Lou Gehrig Day, Gary Cooper is fun to look at, and the real Babe Ruth plays himself, as do a handful of other real Yankees. (Gehrig doesn’t have a National Day, although Major League Baseball does celebrate Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day on July 4 — as if we had nothing else to do that day.)

And because April 6 is National Caramel Popcorn Day, I will watch The Babe Ruth Story while snacking on my very own secret recipe for homemade Cracker Jack. The song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is responsible for my enduring love of this snack. It was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, two Tin Pan Alley composers looking for a hit. They got the idea from a poster on the subway advertising a baseball game at the Polo Grounds, then the Upper Manhattan home of the early Mets and Yankees. The duo had never been to a game, but that didn’t stop them. The song hit it big in vaudeville but wasn’t heard in the Major League until the 1934 World Series. Norworth didn’t make it to a game until 1940, when he was honored at Ebbets Field by the … wait for it … Dodgers!

I was also very excited to see that April 17 is National Bat Appreciation Day. Except it turned out to be about flying rats (bat aficionados probably won’t appreciate that I called them that) and not about the Louisville Slugger (MLB’s official bat, incidentally, was created in 1884 by Bud Hillerich, whose prototype pulled the Louisville Eclipse star Pete Browning out of a slump). 

Play ball! ||||